Tiger

Tigers – Unlike Lions, tigers are not kings of their ecosystem in the same way as lions. While lions live in prides and lie out in the open, Tigers are solitary (except mothers with their young, or a current breeding pair.

In most instances, male tigers also have no part in caring for young. Amur tigers have a hard time finding food, and there are many documented cases where male tigers will leave kills for their mate and young. This has not been regularly noted amongst other sub species which  live in places where food is easier to come across.

We are yet to add any destinations to go see wild tigers, but they will appear on this page, along with a list of articles from the blog on this subject. With a range of different subspecies, which range from relatively secure and growing population, to those on the edge of extinction.

Tigers actually have a similar density in their habitat as a whole to lions (lions are about 5 times as populous, and have a range of about 5 times greater. Tigers roam around 650,000 square km, but with 4500 wild tigers – In other words, overall  each species has on average a similar density. Unfortunately, due to their solitary, and often nocturnal habits, it is better to compare tigers to leopards – for many visitors to Africa, while they might see 30 lions in a week, they might see just a couple of Leopards. Having said this, in India, this is recognized, and when a tiger is found you can take a ride on an elephant which will allow you to leave the road and get up and close to an elephant. 

Tigers are still found in a variety of countries, however, for the time being, I have not broken them down in this way, as it is more useful to look at them as their former subspecies (I say former because of a decision a few years ago – for more, look below the tiger picture that is below this text).

Below is a list of articles on all subspecies of tiger. Below that is a set of tabs, which will allow you to read about each subspecies. This is because tigers roam around 650,000 square km, however, there is thought that this could be increased by 1.7 million square km. It should be noted, that the current range of the tiger is only around 5% of its historical range.

We are eager to list as many places to see the wild tiger as we possibly can. We hope that each subspecies will eventually have plenty of destinations to see them in the wild. There are many people living alongside these animals, and as such tourism can help these peoples to earn a better income, while they protect these incredible animals.

I should note, that since 2017 there have only been 2 subspecies recognized. That of the continental tigers (Bengal, Amur, Malayan Indochinese, South China and the Caspian) and the so called Sunda tiger (historically from Sumatra Java and Bali, though only surviving in Sumatra). Now, I find it hard to believe that a Bengal tiger would survive in the Amur region of Russia. However, it may well have been found that the differences are not distinct enough to warrant subspecies status. As chance would have it, that would mean that the top line talks about distinct populations of the Continental Tiger, while the bottom line talks about the Sunda tiger populations

One of the last large habitats for tigers, the Sunderbans, is low level so will be lost to any significant sea level rise photo credit Soumyajit Nandy, .CC BY-SA 4.0

Bengal Tiger

The country with the most tigers is India, hosting around 70% of the remaining tigers, or a little over 3000. However, this is down from 100,000 in 1900. In 2006 the Indian tiger population was as low as just 1411 – there are individual reserves in Africa with more lions in than this number. Given that there are 54 tiger reserves in India, that leaves an average population of just 30 per reserve – translocation will be required to maintain genetically healthy tigers. Formerly working on pug-marks, counting has been replaced with photo identification, as pug marks were overestimating the population (Simlipal reserve in Orissa state claimed 101 tigers in 2004, yet in 2010 a photo count stated 61, and this is thought a a huge over estimate, as the same state government claims just 45 tigers across  the state. Sariska and Panna reserves in India are worse with the government having to admit that there are no tigers left (2 reserves of at least 5 so called tiger reserves with none left). 

In a list of the best places to see tigers, India will often count more than  half of them within its borders. There are many destinations with some tigers, and around half of the 

There is currently an estimated 3100 Bengal tigers and they are listed as endangered. However, the total number of wild tigers is around 4500, so around 2/3 live in India.

Wild Amur tiger in the snow
Amur Tigers are incredibly hardy, living in a place covered in snow for over half the year

Amur Tiger

Russia hosts one of the hardest tigers to see. However, there are now around 500 Amur tigers roaming the remote far east of Russia, up from less than 40 in the 1940s,  this population has also had great gains. 

Unfortunately there is little habitat for this population to grow much more, however recent genetic analysis has shown that the Amur tiger and the Caspian tiger (which lived in the far west of Russia, as well as various other countries around here like Türkiye (the new spelling of turkey)) is not distinct enough to be a separate subspecies – it is actually the western portion of the Amur tiger. The genetic analysis suggests that the two populations split within the last 200 years. 

As such, should space be found here, perhaps Amur tigers should be translocated west to repopulate these long empty tiger ranges. Ili-Balkash Nature Reserve in Kazakhstan covers 4150 square km (1600 square miles). This is large enough for a population of around 120 tigers, Given that even the most absurdly optimistic estimate for tiger numbers in 750, with more reasonable numbers being around 500 (minimum 260) this will over time, boost tiger populations by anywhere between 20% and 50%

Currently, there are thought to be between 265 and 486, the 750 number should not be relied on. They are listed as endangered. It should be noted, that in the 1930s there was just 20-30 Amur tigers , so this is a quite fantastic recovery – the population has increased by 800-2400% in around 100 years. It should be noted, that the Amur leopard has done half of the recovery of the possibly population increase, in just 20 years – showing what is possible. A similar recovery at the current time, would return us to having around 500 Amur leopards.

Much of the recovery, is down to reserves being set up in both China and Russia, for these cats protection. Expansion of these reserves would allow more cats to survive, while the founding and growing of an eco-tourism market could allow locals to benefit from the tigers and leopards living there.

We are eager to work with anyone in the field, do get in touch. Click on list your wild place.

Caspian tiger (extinct)

Caspian Tiger

The Caspian tiger was officially declared extinct in 2003, with the last two sightings were in 1958 and 1974 (in Kegeli in Karakalpkstan).

Before its local extinction, this tiger occurred in eastern Turkey, southern Caucasus, northern Iran, Iraq, and in isolated pockets throughout Central Asia as far as north-western China. Whether it will ever be allowed to have a range like this, is anyone’s guess. Clearly, humans were curtailing its range very early on. The only record for instance of its presence in Iraq, was from a 1887, when one was shot near Mosul. The last tiger in Turkey was shot in 1970, with Iran loosing its last in either 1953 or 1958, and the last tiger of Turkmenistan being shot in 1954.

Given the vast historic range of the Caspian tiger, there is many areas that are suitable for reintroduction. It is also possible, that by strategically translocating, it might be possible to reduce the number of tigers in the areas where they share habitat with Amur leopards, which might allow this population to also grow faster. The Caspian tiger is officially extinct, though it should be subsumed into the Amur tiger subspecies. It ranged from the eastern parts of Turkey to the central part of Russia (where it joined with the Amur tiger population. Plans are afoot to re-establish tigers in this range,  given that as the Amur tiger is the same sub-species it should thrive as it did in the past.

Malayan Tiger walking1 Angah hfz

The Malaysian tiger is a subspecies of tiger that is found on the Malaysian peninsular. There are only thought to be 80-120 tigers left in this country, and this has been caused by a variety of factors, including poaching for skin and bones, as well as habitat loss and fracturing, into smaller areas. It is similar to the Indochinese tiger (to the right) though it is smaller, and is the smallest mainland subspecies, though only slightly bigger on average than the Sumatran tiger.

As with elsewhere, increased tourism dollars, might well help local people see value in preserving this species. In the 1950s there were around 3000 of these tigers, however given a density of 1-2 tigers per 100 square km  that would require a lot of space. Malaysia protects about 13.3% of its land area which equates to 44,000 square km. .Going by top densities, this is only space for almost 900 tigers (though that is 8 to 9 times the current population) but if poaching were to stop, this situation could change fast.

They are classed as critically endangered

Historically found in Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam, this species decline is large. In 2010, the assessment was that there were 250 left in Thailand, with around 85 in Myanmar and perhaps 20 hanging on in Vietnam. It is thought that the population is now just 250.

More than half of the total Indochinese tiger population survives in the Western Forest Complex in Thailand, especially in the area of the Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary.

 

 

They are considered endangered in Thailand and critically endangered in Myanmar and Vietnam

South China Tiger

This subspecies is definitely extinct in the wild. It was considered critically endangered from 1996, but none have been seen since the early 1990s. The human population is large in this area.

The captive South China tiger population is thought to be around 150, though it is thought that few if any are pure South China tiger.

Laohu Valley Reserve, Free State in South Africa, is a 300 square km reserve which has been used to rewild the first of these tigers. There are now thought to be around 18 that could return to South China, and the plan was for them to return in 2008. Unfortunately, the situation there, has not improved, and so there is still no place for them to be reintroduced. The couple who paid for, and instigated this plan have since divorced, so it is unclear if the animals will ever return home.

They are officially extinct in the wild – however, given their presence both in captivity, and in small reserves in the wild, it is clear that in the future they could return.

Sumatra is the only Indonesian island which still houses wild tigers. There are currently thought to be 500-600 left in the wild (in 2017 the population was estimated at around 618 plus or minus 290 – a huge error margin).

As with elsewhere, habitat fragmentation is a big problem for this cat. The largest protected reserve is Gunung Leuser National Park. Around 500 of the islands tigers live in reserves, with another 100 living outside protected areas. Sightings are rare, but if you trek in the park, they are possible. Indeed, it is the last place on earth where elephants rhinos tigers and orangutans live alongside each other. There are also sun bears, making a fascinating if difficult big 5. The area also hosts some of the last clouded leopards in the world,

 

They are classed as critically endangered. while their population has grown in the last few decades, deforestation makes further growth hard, and further losses likely.

Below, is our usual list of any articles that might have been written on this subject, and below that is a documentary on Sumatran tigers. Below both of these, we will add any links which might help you see this animal in the wild (or indeed visit its wild home, giving locals more incentive to protective for the future)

Although only officially declared extinct in 2003, the last reliable sightings of tracks and the animal occurred in 1976. 

Ujung Kulon National Park hosts the last Javan rhino, thought to number just 76.  Other local species include carnivores such as leopard, wild dog (dhole), leopard cat, fishing cat, Javan mongoose and several species of civets. It is also home to three endemic primate species; the Javan gibbon, Javan leaf monkey and silvered leaf monkey. Over 270 species of birds have been recorded and terrestrial reptiles and amphibians include two species of python, two crocodile species and numerous frogs and toads. This habitat may well suit tigers in the future. However, the tiger population in Sumatra must first recover, and this may never happen, given the continued clearing of the rainforest.  A century ago, there were also orangutans.

They are classed as extinct, and while there are occasional possible sightings, it is highly unlikely that any remain.

The Bali tiger was lost in 1937 when it was shot. It is thought that they persisted in low numbers as late as the 1970s, though they were not declared extinct until 2008. Around 1250 square km remain on the island of rainforest, suggesting that it is another potential destination for the Sumatran tiger. Much work needs to be done first, both on Bali and on Sumatra, if this is to happen                          

Species is officially extinct

Tiger news in general

Wild tiger -photo credit S. Taheri
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